From his residence in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Ryan Martin said it was "awesome" that Central High School was in the state football playoffs and had a winning record this year.
The Purple Pounders' record is not nearly as impressive as the 21-year-old Central graduate's.
He's 8-0 as a professional lightweight boxer in less than 14 months of action. He tries this evening to go to 9-0 -- 7-0 in 2014. But Martin, a protege of rapper 50 Cent through SMS Promotions, is fighting his toughest opponent to date in his most prestigious setting.
The former star of Chattanooga's Y-Cap boxing program will be facing Martin Cardona of Mexico, who is 17-3 with 12 knockouts and fought last year for the IBF super featherweight championship. They are the first bout, starting about 5:30 p.m., on an Atlantic City (N.J.) Boardwalk Hall card headlined by Bernard Hopkins against Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight matchup consolidating three championships.
The back end of the nine-bout card will be televised by HBO. The opener is scheduled for six rounds, which would be the longest yet for "Blue Chip" Martin if it goes the distance. He's won half his matches by knockout. The other four were four-round unanimous decisions.
"He's had six-rounders before. They just never went six rounds," said Martin's manager, Tim VanNewhouse. "But this is the best opponent he's faced. Cardona has more KOs than Ryan has total fights. He's a four-year pro, and the guy he lost to in the super feather (title fight) was 18-0."
Martin's last fight was a first-round TKO of Engelberto Valenzuela on Aug. 8 in Pittsburgh. Valenzuela had an 8-2 record.
"I think we're right on schedule. We're right where we need to be," VanNewhouse said Wednesday by phone. "I expect even better things next year, but really, from what I had seen in Ryan I'm not surprised by any of this."
Martin speaks with confidence but with modesty as well.
"I feel I've made very good progress so far. I'm very happy with where I'm at right now, but I'm still learning," he said. "I'm just trying to do what I have to do."
A recent release from SMS Promotions noted that HBO boxing executive Peter Nelson sat next to 50 Cent and watched Martin knock out Eric Goodall last December in Queens, N.Y.
"I've been working extremely hard since I was a young boy," Martin said in that release. "I've competed and have been among the best in the nation since I was a kid. I'm eager to showcase my skills in front of Peter Nelson again. Hopefully we'll create more opportunities like this."
Martin said he greatly appreciates what VanNewhouse and 50 Cent have been doing for him. And he always expresses gratitude for the start he was given by the Y-Cap program's Andy Smith and Joe Smith.
When not in training -- and VanNewhouse said to expect at least one more fight, and maybe two, this year -- Martin has been enjoying "hanging out" with his father and brothers, who have joined him in northeastern Ohio.
"Chattanooga is always on Ryan's shoulders," VanNewhouse said. "He wants to come back there someday and do some things for the city. He's always thinking about Chattanooga and fighting with Chattanooga in his heart."
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.